Inside Pornography: A Rational Feminist Critique – Very Well Put

by Larisa Manescu
University of Texas- Austin
February 20, 2012

I’ve never had a passionate opinion on pornography. Possessing a “to each his own” mindset, I’ve ranged in my feelings from indifference to slight aggravation whenever individuals condemn others for watching it. But, after attending a lecture titled “The Effects of the Sex-Obsessed Culture on Women” given by Dr. Robert Jensen, a professor deeply devoted to the feminist critique of pornography, I’ve formed a clear standpoint.

This standpoint is based on one major clarification: It doesn’t consider the very concept of pornography (the taping of real sex, whether engagement in or viewing of) to be immoral, vulgar or inherently wrong, a stance commonly conveyed by conservative and religious critiques. The feminist critique finds the content of pornography disturbing: the “story” in your average porn solidifies the notion of the man as the dominator and the woman as his subordinate in often extreme situations.

Since I had never been exposed to a detailed investigation into the history of pornography’s content, the lecture came as an overwhelming but logical supply of information. Honestly, I usually cringe when I hear the term “feminist”; it gives me thoughts of women nagging men, overreacting and heightening the status of women rather than trying to equalize relationships between women and men. But it cannot be denied that the central dynamic in the content of pornography is “domination and subordination on film,” a realization Professor Jensen absorbed from prominent feminist Andrea Dworkin, who dedicated substantial time to the research of the feminist critique of pornography.

The feminist critique is specific in its focus: It’s an analysis of the actual content, not production or reflection, of pornography. A brief explanation of the adapting business model clearly illuminates the positions in which women are placed, most often quite literally, in situations that control and degrade them.

The standard sexual script of a porn film was originally simple and routine: oral sex was performed by both sexes (but considerably longer on the man), then vaginal penetration and lastly male ejaculation on the female. However, the 1980s revealed a new business endeavor in attempts to alter this script to continuously excite and appeal to the audience. This is around the time when anal penetration became commonplace.

Although the practice is fairly typical in the modern day, a more profound look into the actual implications of anal sex is revealing of the dominator-subordinate interaction I previously mentioned. Before accusations of unrealistic claims, I can provide evidence from a well-informed and experienced source. At an annual porn industry convention in Las Vegas, Professor Jensen asked the question “Why is anal sex attractive these days?” One aged producer offered up an honest but nevertheless explicit response, claiming that when men get angry with women, they say, “I’d like to f#@k her in the ass,” knowing this practice is not naturally pleasurable for the woman.

However, anal sex is the most timid of the modern content that exists to portray the woman in an inferior position. Five sexual practices that include domination are now common: double penetration (two men, one vaginally and one anally), double anal (two men), double vaginal (two men), gagging (oral sex to the point of choking), and ATM (anal to oral sex, without hygiene). Generally speaking, none of these sexual practices are ones women would actively pursue. The thought is that pornography, in the late 20th century, could have adopted entirely different sexual practices, ones more intimate, realistic and yet still erotic and stimulating. However, at the expense of the woman, it spiraled down a more intense, risky, and demeaning path.

I don’t mean to propagate the idea that porn should never be watched, but it’s important to realize and reflect upon the insinuations of its content. For both the male and female viewer, pornography can have a way of subconsciously infiltrating the mind’s perception of gender relations. So be it, if pornography is a part of an individual’s life, but a more profound examination into its content aids him or her in not letting it dictate his or her own expectations of reality.
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